The scientific name “cannabis” is the preferred term rather than the common name “marijuana”, which is often associated with racial discrimination and injustice.
Using cannabis (Health Canada) distorts perception and impairs coordination, putting the user at risk for injuries.
Using cannabis can damage the lungs, increase heart rate, lower blood pressure, and change the way the brain works, putting the user at risk for chronic disease and mental health concerns.
What is cannabis?
Cannabis goes by many names (for example, weed, dope, pot, and MJ). It comes from the dried tops (buds) of the cannabis plant. THC (delt-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol) is the active drug. Cannabis can be rolled into a joint and is sometimes mixed with tobacco to be smoked. It can also be used in a pipe, a bong (water pipe) or vaporizer. THC can also be extracted from the plant to make hash oil.
Who is using cannabis?
More than half (52.3%) of people aged 19+ living in the Sudbury & District Health Unit service area have tried cannabis at some point in their lifetime. However, 13% admit to currently using cannabis. Comparatively 50% of people in Northern Ontario and 41% of Ontarians report having tried cannabis and 11% of people in Northern Ontario and 10.6% admit to currently using cannabis (Source: Canadian Community Health Survey 2009-2012, Statistics Canada, Share File, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care).
What are the effects of cannabis use?
For some people, when they use cannabis for the first time, they feel little or no effect. Often it is with repeated use that people will feel the effects. These effects can be different for users depending on their experience with cannabis, whether it is smoked or swallowed, the mood of the person using, and if it is used in combination with other drugs. When cannabis is smoked the effects can begin immediately and last for several hours. If cannabis is ingested the effects begin after about an hour but will last longer. THC is stored in the fat cells and will be released from the body over a period of days or weeks, which is why drug tests for cannabis can be positive for weeks after the effects of the drug have worn off.
Some people will feel relaxed, talkative or even ‘giggly’ when they use cannabis. Other times a person may feel tense, anxious or confused.
Cannabis use can alter a person’s perception of time, distance and space. It will impair judgement, decrease concentration and coordination. Red eyes, dry mouth, sleepiness and increased appetite, also known as the ‘munchies’ can result from marijuana use.
What are the risks of cannabis use?
- Cannabis use will distort perception, change the mood of the user, affect the user’s ability to shift attention from one thing to another, decrease concentration and cause short-term memory loss. This can impact school or work performance.
- Co-ordination of movement, balance, posture and reaction time are also affected by cannabis use and can play a large role in injuries, one to three hours after use. For these reasons driving after using cannabis is dangerous.
- Cannabis use has been linked to schizophrenia in some people.
- Because cannabis is often inhaled, the effects on the lungs can be similar to those of smoking tobacco including chronic bronchitis.
- For people with heart disease, cannabis poses a risk for heart attack because it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Cannabis use during pregnancy may affect the fetus. When taken together with alcohol, the effects of each of these drug is intensified resulting in severe impairment.
- As with any illegal drug, cannabis is not subject to health and safety standards. This drug may be contaminated with pesticides, toxic fungi or other drugs.
- Unless you have a medical exemption or a license to grown marijuana, it is illegal to grow, possess or sell cannabis.
Are you concerned about your use or someone else’s cannabis use?
- If the answer is “yes”, seek help. Contact the Drug and Alcohol Helpline (Ontario Government). It offers services by phone, online chat, and email, and provides a directory of support services.
- Learn more about cannabis (Government of Canada).
This item was last modified on October 5, 2018